The first exhibition of this type was the Venice Biennale held in 1895, situated in the Giardini, a public park in Venice. The Giardini now houses thirty permanent national pavilions and many smaller temporary structures. The early years of the Venice Biennale were dominated by European art, but the exhibition now includes contributions from countries in South America, Africa, Asia and the Middle East.
The late twentieth century saw a dramatic increase in biennials and by 2007 there were some fifty across the world, including the Beijing Biennial, the Liverpool Biennial, the Prague Biennale, the São Paulo Bienal and the Sharjah Biennial in The Gulf.
This explosion of large-scale international art exhibitions mirrors the financial boom in international art buying.